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Langdon and DHL Win U.S. Nationals Top Fuel Title

INDIANAPOLIS – At a race where legends are made and historic moments are branded into NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fans’ memories Shawn Langdon and the DHL Top Fuel dragster team made two runs for the ages. On the way to his second NHRA U.S. Nationals Top Fuel title and first Top Fuel win since St Louis in 2016 Langdon won a wild semifinal round race against rookie of the year candidate Justin Ashley before dominating the final round against Leah Pruett. The race win moved Langdon up to No. 5 in the Mello Yello point standings and was the fifteenth Top Fuel win of his career.

“With how much uncertainty there is this year, where we are racing, if we’re racing this team has really hunkered down,” said Langdon. “We have a great group of guys here at Kalitta. To win Indy is awesome. It’s kind of one of those things where you say, no matter what, if you win the U.S. Nationals, you’ve had a good year. I think right now we are free rolling for the rest of the year. We gained some valuable points that we needed to make up from the last couple of races. We went out early with some issues in dropping cylinders and we got it fixed and it shows in the results.”

For the fourth year in a row Kalitta Motorsports won at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Langdon extended the streak started by Funny Car teammate J.R. Todd who won in 2017 and 2018. Last year Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team won Top Fuel at the biggest race of the year for the first time and now Langdon has collected his second Indy win and first with crew chief and drag racing icon Connie Kalitta at the helm.

“Working with Connie and the DHL team, those guys are awesome,” said Langdon. “We’ve had an awesome car all weekend long. We tested last week in trying to fix some things and in the final, when I hit the gas I knew we had it if we didn’t smoke the tires. I had a little reaction time advantage. I’m just trying to give everything I’ve got. Everything that Connie has given to this sport and everything that everyone at DHL, Kalitta Air, Toyota, Wix, NGK Spark Plugs, SealMaster and Mobil 1.”

Langdon entered race day as the No. 1 qualifier with a fast race car and the confidence of a driver who knew he was in control of his destiny. In the first round against newcomer Joey Haas Langdon ran 3.729 seconds nearly equaling his No. 1 qualifying time from Friday night.

His quarterfinal race against veteran Cory McClenathan highlighted how consistent Langdon’s race car was when he flipped on the win light with a 3.723 second pass at 319.90 mph. The back to back 3.72 second runs left Langdon ready for his semifinal race against Ashley. The race would prove to be a defining moment for both drivers.

At the hit of the throttle Langdon’s 11,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragster went into immediate tire smoke. He was able to react and save the run as he finessed his race car down the track as it billowed smoke and sashayed towards the finish line. Ashley was beside Langdon trying to control his own issues as his dragster was also battling to stay connected to the racing surface and after over six seconds Langdon saw a win light which advanced him to his second career final round at the U.S. Nationals.

“I noticed when we went to pre-stage that they were wiping something up. I thought it might just be an overflow of the fuel tank,” explained Langdon. “I saw something and they kept mopping it up, but I didn’t see any of my guys panicking. Apparently, they were behind me, but I couldn’t see anything. I wasn’t really prepared for it because the car’s been good all weekend, so it caught me off guard. I hit the gas and it struggled. I couldn’t get it to hook back up and I got sideways. A couple of times I thought I was about to wreck, but those are the races why we do this. This is Indy and I’m here to win races, so whatever it takes.”

Langdon went on to explain the run, “When I hit the gas initially, I saw his car shoot out on me and I was letting my car calm down a little bit because it was still smoking the tires. I was reaching over to grab the brake handle to help slow wheel speed down and then I saw him (Ashley) getting in trouble. At that point was when I started to get back on the gas. It was going for a second and I think it dropped a cylinder and it went back up in smoke. At that time, I was waiting for it to calm down again and I could hear him having trouble as he was still trying to get it to recover. I’m doing anything I can. Luckily, I was able to manage it someway, somehow. It was an exciting one for sure.”

Racing in the final round Langdon knew he would have to have his best effort and he did not disappoint. The 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion leapt off the starting line with a near perfect .015 reaction time and never trailed in the race. His winning time of 3.705 seconds at 326.32 mph was the second quickest run of the day.

Langdon on racing for NHRA legend Connie Kalitta: “When Connie hired me in 2017 to drive his car we made a couple of late-round finishes and had a couple of runner-up finishes. So when I went to Funny Car (in 2018), my only regret was I wasn’t able to get a win with Connie Kalitta as my crew chief. Going to Funny Car, I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to. I always looked up to Connie as a kid. I watched him for years and I still look up to him. He’s an awesome team owner and he’s an awesome crew chief.”

Qualified: No. 1 (3.728 sec., 313.22 mph)
Bonus points: +3 (Quickest of Q1)

Race Details:

First Round
Driver                          Qual    R/T      ET        MPH
Shawn Langdon         1          .053     3.729   315.71 (W)
Joey Haas                    16        .125     4.032   273.77

Second Round
Driver                          Qual    R/T      ET        MPH
Shawn Langdon         1          .069     3.723   319.90 (W)
Cory McClenathan      9          .086     3.731   330.47

Semifinal Round
Driver                          Qual    R/T      ET        MPH
Shawn Langdon         1          .039     6.920   175.00 (W)
Justin Ashley                13        .001     7.237   184.90

Final Round
Driver                          Qual    R/T      ET        MPH
Shawn Langdon         1          .015     3.705   326.32 (W)
Leah Pruett                 6          .091     5.141   145.75

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